Live Review: The Joy Formidable with the Dig and Grouplove at Black Cat Backstage, Washington DC – 11th November 2010

By on Tuesday, 16th November 2010 at 2:00 pm

Although I’ve attended many dances in the Black Cat Backstage space (capacity: 200 people) I’ve never actually seen a show there, because the times I was scheduled to see a band play on the downstairs stage, the gig had been upgraded to the upstairs (Brakes and the Twilight Sad, and Passion Pit, as two examples). I can definitely say after seeing the Joy Formidable play there Thursday night, it is indeed the place to see bands in Washington. They were one of the first bands we featured in our MP3 of the Day section, and I remember thinking, wow, they sound amazing on record. What are they like live? You will find out as you read on.

The Joy Formidable were preceded by two excellent support bands. The Dig was the first to go on, and you may recall me writing about before as they opened for Editors on their North American tour in February. Good ol’ American rock the way nature intended. I agreed with a new friend I met (a woman who has been following me around on the DC gig circuit, or possibly the other way around!) that the New York City quartet sounded much, much tighter at this appearance than the previous time I caught them.

They started with ‘Carry Me Home’, and their energy just built and built as their set progressed until they ended with ‘I Just Wanna Talk to You’, where guitarist David Baldwin and bassist Emile Mosseri duet in a snarly yet sexy fashion. ‘Already Gone’, a track we gave away in February, is an example of how great they are: Mosseri’s engaging lyrics, seriously good guitar riffs, wicked bass lines, atmospheric keys, awesome drumming. Note to A&R men: to be honest, I don’t know how they have not been discovered by a UK label yet.

GROUPLOVE was the second support act. While I hadn’t heard any of their music before this show, their having supported Two Door Cinema Club on their recent autumn North American tour was good enough as any endorsement to me. They sound vaguely surf pop, which may be attributed to band member Andrew Wessen being an actual professional surfer and guitarist; but interestingly, the harmonies and passion they display onstage make them far and away much better than most of the bands of that genre out there now. ‘Gold Coast’ featured industrial clanking that made it a more sultrier number than the more upbeat ones, but it provided an interesting contrast in song styles. The band members themselves jump around on stage for songs like ‘Colours’, so it’s clear they are having a ball, and you can’t help but smile watching them play and hearing their harmonies.

The Joy Formidable went on rather late, but I attribute this to their manager painstakingly anchoring down, with a massive roll of Gaffa tape, all the equipment wires onstage. This proved to be essential, as lead singer / guitarist Ritzy Bryan was all over the place during the set, shredding on her guitar like mad. As I was right up front I almost got my head taken off by her guitar’s neck a couple of times. (Not whinging at all. Just an observation.)

Really, all three of them – Bryan on guitar, Rhydian Dafydd on bass and Matt Thomas on drums – were giving us 500%, this had to be the most energetic performance I’ve ever seen in my life. At one point, Bryan looked overwhelmed by the audience response to their first appearance in our town (widespread, manic moshing); a female punter shouted, “you don’t understand. People never react to bands like this!” Bryan responded with a smile, “you mean it’s like London?” I laughed, thinking about what my friends have said about stoic London gigging crowds.

I’ll always remember Dafydd’s bass lines in ‘Austere’ and ‘Ostrich’, as it gave me such a buzz watching a master at work. Before launching into an exemplary rendition of ‘Whirring’ (ending with Thomas beating his drums so hard and Bryan looking like she was going to smash her guitar into her amp), Bryan said thank you and said they looked forward to playing for us again early next year when they have a full album to tour with. As a blog editor, I’m having to go through all my recollections of gigs throughout the year, trying to nail down what are the best gigs I’ve seen this year. As it’s mid-November, I’m almost positive that this Joy Formidable gig will be #1 on my list. I’m getting chills just thinking about the gig. No doubt I will definitely see them again when they grace Washington with their presence.

The Dig Photos:


The Joy Formidable Set List:
The Greatest Light is the Greatest Shade
The Magnifying Glass
I Don’t Want to See You Like This
Greyhounds in the Slips
The Last Drop

The Joy Formidable Photos:

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4 Responses

[…] when their premiere appearance in DC was playing Black Cat Backstage, not even the main stage, in 2010) to where they are now, at the top of their game and nowhere else to go but up, up, up. Dave Grohl […]

[…] made their way up the food chain of venues in our fair city. First they played to a small audience in the dive-y Black Cat Backstage in November 2010 (where I almost got impaled by singer Ritzy Bryan’s guitar’s neck); […]

[…] suffering a crippling bout of heartbreak, I saw them play to a small crowd (at most 40 people?) at Black Cat Backstage in November 2010, and it was very strange to me how incredibly cathartic throwing yourself into hard, fast, loud […]

2:56 am
9th September 2019

[…] kind of environment better, but still, this was an amazing show. Hard to believe the first time I saw them was in November 2010, barely filling half of Black Cat Backstage’s capacity of […]

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